I’ve heard this one from Hindus, Jews and Christians alike:
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
It popped into my mind after reading yesterday’s post, and I was curious, so I Googled a bit and found that the phrase doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. It turns out that that particular phrase originates from John Wesley, who preached it in a sermon in 1791:
Slovenliness is no part of religion. Cleanliness is indeed next to Godliness.
— John Wesley, 1791
I used to think that this meant that cleanliness is a mark of a holy person—that by keeping your body and your surroundings clean, you were bringing yourself closer to God. Accounts vary on what Wesley actually meant by this, but in my reading, it seems that the real meaning could be referring to importance. Godliness first, cleanliness second. It’s that important. I’m not a spiritual person, but I am pretty good at
s/godliness/humility, compassion and selflessness/i, so that’s how I read it.
I’m pretty good at keeping my digital life clean and organised. My inbox is usually close to zero, my files are in the right place and backed up, and my to-do list is pretty sane. It’s my analogue life that suffers a lot of the time. Did I get back to my friend about when we can meet up for dinner, or did I forget? Have I slept enough this week? Did I remember to do the laundry? Part of it’s because I’m busy—you know, the kind of busy where you’re having a great time and get home at midnight a lot, not the kind of busy because you have to be to take care of someone or put food on the table.
I really don’t have to be that busy. I’m trying pretty hard to keep myself a bit more free, but it’s not something in which I have a lot of experience, so I’m struggling. Doing the laundry is boring, but it needs to be done.
My lifestyle is messy. I hope that over the next few months, I can clean it up.